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Cottrell fits right in with Bolts

Discussion in 'San Diego Chargers Hall of Champions' started by robdog, May 13, 2007.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2007/05/12/sports/professional/chargers/23_35_125_11_07.txt">North County Times </a>

    <span class="byline">By: MIKE SULLIVAN - Staff Writer</span>

    SAN DIEGO -- Ted Cottrell knew he was inheriting some top-tier talent when he was named the Chargers' defensive coordinator in February. He knew the bar was set high after a franchise-best 14-2 season.<img src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/05/ted-cottrell.jpg" alt="Ted Cottrell" align="right" />

    He also knew continuity was desired after the defensive unit had excelled under Wade Phillips, who left to become head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

    Cottrell had previously worked with Phillips in Buffalo and was seen as a philosophical fit in terms of running a similar 3-4 defense.
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    Naturally, there were concerns with how the change would go over with the players. But shortly before a press conference was held to announce the hirings of Cottrell and new coach Norv Turner, Cottrell stunned a few defensive players he encountered by calling out the code names for different defenses the Chargers used under Phillips.

    "I was calling the code names out for them and asking if they still called them that, and they said 'Yes,' " Cottrell recalled this week. "That set their minds at ease."

    That first impression allowed the defensive players to relax and realize that there wouldn't be a full-fledged reconfiguration under Cottrell's direction. The defensive style that saw the Chargers produce an NFL-leading 61 sacks was remaining intact, a similar advantage to the offensive continuity the team touted with the hiring of Turner. Turner installed the Chargers' current offense during a stint as the team's offensive coordinator in 2001.

    Close to three months later, after a recent three-day mandatory minicamp, followed by four days of organized coaching sessions, Cottrell says everything is coming together nicely. The players have adapted to his style of coaching and bought in to what he's preaching.

    "I'm very pleased with the progress," said Cottrell, who has eight years experience as a defensive coordinator with the Bills (1998-2000), New York Jets (2001-03) and Minnesota (2004-05). "One of our main goals was the familiarity thing, and I think the guys are becoming familiar with me and I'm becoming quite familiar with them also.

    "You mention the offense. It's the same thing with the defense. We want it to be just as smooth of a transition as possible. The same system that was run in Buffalo when I was coaching there has been installed here, and my familiarity with the system and the players' familiarity has been a big positive for us."

    Cottrell said there will be a few subtle changes in the defense, but nothing dramatic. He said he has concerns over the unit's third-down efficiency last season ---- the Chargers allowed opponents to convert 36.6 percent of their third-down plays into first downs ---- and plans to address that.

    Cottrell was pleased that about 90 percent of the defensive veterans reported for the voluntary workouts this week. He spotted the talent during the three Chargers games he caught on television last season while working for the NFL office and has been thrilled to learn the work ethic matches the athletic abilities.

    "They are really driven to achieve something," Cottrell said. "They have a lot of self-motivation out there on the practice field."<img src="http://bolttalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/football.gif" alt="football" align="right" />

    The motivation stems from the epic playoff collapse against New England. In the month following the loss, coach Marty Schottenheimer was fired and both Phillips and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron (Miami) left for head-coaching gigs.

    The departures, coming on the heels of unprecedented regular-season success, were the prime reasons president Dean Spanos and general manager A.J. Smith coveted continuity during their coaching search.

    For the defensive side, that made Cottrell the natural fit. During the team's recent minicamp, several defensive players remarked about how smooth the transition was going.

    "I think we all have adjusted to each other in the film room," cornerback Antonio Cromartie said. "Over the (minicamp), we began to know each other a lot more. I think everybody is going to adjust well with the new coaches."

    Defensive end Luis Castillo said the defenders were still adjusting to Cottrell's "way of coaching," but liked that Turner and Cottrell were being "hands on" with their approach.

    "They are coaching every little detail of everything going on," Castillo said. "As a player, you like seeing that because you like seeing them take that interest. It also shows you that we're going to learn and we're going to get better as a team.

    "Norv Turner has talked about that it's not just about having the most talented team, it's having the most complete team. Making the least mistakes and eliminating all the little things that cost us that game against the Patriots last year."

    The real answer to how everyone adjusts will reveal itself in January. That will either be the time the Chargers exult over the end of a playoff victory drought that dates to the 1994 season or find themselves bitterly disappointed over one of two things ---- another early playoff exit or not making the playoffs at all.

    By then, it will be known if the decision to opt for continuity and familiarity precipitated a magical season. Count Castillo among the players excited that management strove to limit the number of alterations to a 14-win team.

    "When you look at all the changes that have happened and you think of the continuity, the one thing for us that has made it a lot easier is we have all the same players, we have the same core of leaders and we have the same offensive and defensive schemes," said Castillo, "which is a credit to the management for them to go out and find guys that would keep those same systems."

    -- Contact staff writer Mike Sullivan at (760) 739-6645 or <a href="mailto:msullivan@nctimes.com">msullivan@nctimes.com</a>.

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